Many spaces in public and social life – from politics to business to spectator sport and more – aren’t exactly the most welcoming of women, mainly because they are still dominated and led by men.
And despite many great strides forward, this can often be said of trade unions too.
Unite North West young members committee chair Victoria Egerton, told UniteLive that when she first got involved in the region’s young members committee initially as workplace rep, she was surprised to see that “the room was full of men”.
“From that moment onward, I felt it was my duty to get more involved,” she said.
Now as chair of the committee, Victoria has successfully helped recruit more young women so that now they together have a decisive seat at the table.
This group of women are all quite young – they range in age between 18 and 24 – and are gaining the confidence to become actively involved in the union and their workplace.
Victoria gives the example of one young woman who was empowered through training to make a vital change in her workplace.
“Where she worked, her employer didn’t have a specific pay date – they essentially just paid their workers whenever they felt like it. But through our training and support she was able to take up the issue with management and now she’s won for all her colleagues a regular pay date.”
It’s small but absolutely crucial workplace issues like this that Unite North West young women members are taking on as they become more active in the union.
Victoria attributes the success the committee has had with recruiting more women to women in the union leading by example and creating a culture where women feel welcome and support each other.
“When women see other young women in leadership positions, they think ‘well, I can do that, too’. We’ve also purposely created an inclusive culture where women don’t feel intimidated about speaking up.
“We’ve really tried to speak their language and we don’t use much of the jargon that can dominate trade union talk. With jargon, men aren’t as afraid to ask questions but young women can think, ‘What on earth are you talking about?’ but then are too afraid to ask.”
Unite’s North West young women members agree.
Sophia Toromsari, 22, who is a member of the Community branch said that she was reluctant to get involved with trade unionism because she “didn’t think there was much female involvement”.
“However, since becoming a Unite young member I have met so many inspiring, strong women – some of whom I now consider my close friends,” she added. “I would encourage all women to join a trade union because it’s the only way we can ensure equal rights for all women in the workplace.”
Unite young member Irene Robinson, 25, who is part of the Graphical, Paper Media & IT sector, agrees.
“One of the best parts about joining a union is the network of amazing women — both past and present — that you also join,” she said.
Unite’s North West region will be marking International Women’s Day today (March 8) by highlighting the inspiring role played by its young women members.
Unite regional women’s officer Sarah Hutchinson said that for her, “working with these young women gives me great hope for the future of our union and we should celebrate International Women’s Day by encouraging more young women to get involved.”